Alex Sanderson was delighted to see Chris Ashton back to his try-poaching best as Saracens secured a bonus-point win away to Bath Rugby on Friday night.
The England winger scored two second-half tries on his return from suspension as Saracens secured a 30-10 success to solidify their position at the head of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
Will Fraser and Mike Ellery had crossed in the first half for the champions, while Leroy Houston scored Bath’s only try on a night where Anthony Watson was sent off in the second half for a dangerous tackle.
And after securing the win that put Saracens eight points clear of Exeter Chiefs in second, Sanderson was understandably impressed by his team and Ashton in particular.
He said: “It’s great to see Ashy out there, not just competing but doing what he does best, poaching tries. He’s a real goal-hanger and a glory-seeker, he’s renowned for that. He’s never happy unless he’s scored so at least Melissa, his wife, will have a happy husband when he goes home tonight.
“It’s not an easy place to come and we knew they would come out breathing fire in that second half. We knew if we stuck to the game plan and kept our heads, didn’t getting pulled down into a arm wrestle and a scrap, then through the physicality we showed in the first half, we would come through in the second and pick up a few more points, which we did.”
Saracens will now turn their attention to Europe and an all-Aviva Premiership Rugby quarter-final against Northampton Saints.
And having seen a lot of Saints in recent weeks, Sanderson is expecting a tough Champions Cup clash.
He added: “It’s a set-piece challenge initially, they’ve got a good scrum. They’ve gone away a bit from the driving lineout, they’ve gone off the top a bit more recently and attack the creases very well.
“They have been on form in the last two weeks, I think, and attacked somewhere near their best, with a mix of being direct and then using their backs and stretching you.
“They have got some good running backs with the Pisi brothers, (George) North when he’s at his best and (Ben) Foden obviously, so we’ve got to limit them and win that physical battle.”
Meanwhile Mike Ford admitted the game had got away from Bath in the first half, as they allowed Saracens to build an 18-3 lead by the break.
He explained: “We lost the game in the first half, our set-piece didn’t function. We gave them the first try in terms of our lineout and we didn’t kick the ball off the field. Early days we had some trouble in the scrum, I thought we got that back later in the first half. But 18-3 against Saracens at half-time is not a great place to be.
“I thought the boys showed character down to 13 and we got a try from a maul. But we lost too much ball from set-piece. To go to 14 men and get caught twice on the left flank where Anthony should have been, they took advantage of that.
“The plan we had went out of the window in the first half. Saracens are a very good side, they put us under pressure and we couldn’t cope.
“We’ve got to play a lot better. There are four games left for us and we’ve got to play a lot better. We have to go back and start again really.”
Bath Rugby: Watson, Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto, Agulla (Priestland 19), Ford, Cook (Homer 74), Catt (Lahiff 52), Webber (Dunn 59), Thomas (Wilson 52), Ewels, Attwood, Garvey (Houston 34), Louw (Mercer 68), Mafi (Denton 53)
Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Bosch (Ellery 68), Barritt, Taylor, Farrell (Ransom 71), Wigglesworth (De Kock 55), Vunipola M (Barrington 55), Brits (Saunders 71), Du Plessis (Lamositele 58), Itoje (Hargreaves 41), Kruis, Rhodes (Brown 55), Fraser, Vunipola B
Tries: Fraser, Ellery, Ashton 2
Conversions: Farrell 2
Penalties: Farrell 2
Referee: Greg Garner